Alone, UX designers don’t have the best product ideas.
Sure, after doing user research, chatting with stakeholders, and throwing in some requirements, UX designers can typically bust out a cool feature on their first try. But that’s not our job.
It’s just not possible for one person to have every single answer for how something should look and function. By ourselves, we don’t have the best ideas.
Our job is to create the best product ideas by including a diverse set of people from our company in the feedback loop.
Related: UX design trends for 2017
Everyone has great ideas, which is why you should never talk to the same people over and over again. That’d be like mixing vanilla ice cream with vanilla ice cream (don’t get me wrong—I love vanilla ice cream). Instead, throw some Oreos or even French fries into your vanilla ice cream by talking to account managers, sales people, back-end engineers, customer service reps, and anyone else related to the product that you normally wouldn’t talk to.
“Alone, UX designers don’t have the best ideas. So get out and talk to people.”
When you talk to people from different parts of your company, you’ll hear different perspectives, different priorities, different needs—and they won’t have the same constraints that you do. Hearing their feedback might give you that out-of-the-box solution.
“Individuals and teams that bring diverse experiences and different backgrounds to a field can sometimes be more successful in identifying needs and opportunities because they are more willing to question the status quo.”
–Biodesign: The Process of Innovating Medical Technologies
How to involve everyone at your company in UX conversations
Talk to them like you would talk to a product manager or even a user. Start a conversation by asking, “What would you want if you were someone needing to do XYZ?” Many people will ask you more questions so they can get a better understanding of the situation to give you their best suggestion. Then just sit back and listen.
The goal isn’t to get the silver bullet—it’s to come up with more options.
There are also countless other ways to get ideas from your atypical users. You can do a modified design sprint based on your resources and bring in others besides the typical engineers, users, product managers and stakeholders. You can run your participants through card sorting, review sales pitches, do contextual interviews, review your products metrics, or even listen to account manager’s calls with their customers. I did this once and just hearing them explain things a certain way gave me that much more insight.
I already talk to everyone, so what else can I do?
Don’t be afraid to show other people your explorations. They may not be the user, but your design should be simple enough to work for anyone. Unlike a user or a product manager, the new person will not be numb from looking at the same screen over and over again and will be more likely to give you new feedback that you might have taken for granted.
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” –Steve Jobs
To give you a real example from my work, I was working on a screen for power users. On this screen it shows a lot of information and we need to allow our power users to edit all this information (they needed inline-editing).
“Your design should be simple enough to work for anyone.”
I created 5 concepts that varied from a simple concept to a more aesthetically flushed-out concept. I felt like the more flushed-out option was best, but I also felt like it was the most complex and would take the most amount of resources.
But once I showed these options to my engineers, they said the way I wanted was the easiest! Based on their simple feedback, I was able to build the product that I felt was best for the user. So, by simply getting my engineers’ feedback on my mocks, it allowed me to focus on the mocks that worked best for everyone. This feedback decreased the time from deploying an MVP feature to the “finished” feature.
What do I do with the feedback?
Take every piece of feedback with a grain of salt. The reason is because the people you talk to might be telling you exactly what they want. They might be saying they want one thing when they really need something else.
Also, as you gather more and more feedback, be on the lookout for any high-arching trends that can be fixed quickly. Get that low-hanging fruit that could be fixed within days that will give some high value.
You can also prioritize solutions to the feedback you received. I usually do this based on a combination of what the user needs, the resources you have, your timeframe, and your ROI for each product you build. For example, I might prioritize something that will provide a good amount of user value at a low cost over a feature that will provide a high amount of user value at a high cost.
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Michael is Head of User Experience at Gimbal in Los Angeles, California. He has founded and advised several companies ranging from one of the most popular social apps in the iTunes store to the most used hospice software in the country. He loves turning ideas into tangible working products and believes in a holistic user experience that also includes elements outside the confinements of just the digital screen. He has helped companies like Grindr, Honda, EXOS, MC & Saatchi, Daily Associates, Ohio State University, HCHB, DivX, and Entertainment Arts. Michael has taught at UCLA and Cal State Long Beach and received his BA from UC Irvine.